The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River will force the Local Government Minister’s hand to make him bring in separate elections for the Shire president’s position. Finalisation of the Shire’s stance was endorsed at last week’s council meeting as elected members considered the outcome of a costly review of the Shire’s ward system now consigned to the dustbin. The review of the wards system saw only modest interest in reintroducing wards axed by the council under former chief executive Gary Evershed in 2017. Proposed reforms to the sector by Minister John Carey included ruling out wards for local governments, direct election of the Shire president or Mayor, and potential changes to the number of councillors for each Shire. Newly-elected councillors Tracey Muir and David Binks, along with re-elected deputy Shire president Julia Meldrum, had pushed for the review of wards after feedback during election campaigning from residents. But at the most recent meeting those members conceded they had had their shot and that residents had failed to engage wholeheartedly with the consultation needed to support the reintroduction of the system. The officer’s review, which included a consultant and “significant” staff time, also found designating wards based on current population was fraught with difficulties. Cowaramup-based councillor Ian Earl said much of the noise about wards came from the Augusta region despite that community failing to run candidates at the election in October 2021. “In a no-wards system like we currently have, anyone can stand,” Cr Earl said. “You’ve actually got to stand candidates if you want to get people elected in Augusta.” Cr Meldrum accepted she was “partly responsible” for the wards review bid. “During the last election campaign there was a lot of talk around representation on council and restoring the wards,” she said. “We haven’t really established the majority of our constituents support for reintroducing (wards).” Councillors instead lauded efforts made to improve community engagement, including the rolling Cuppa with a Councillor schedule. The Shire has until the end of December to give final notice to Mr Carey in response to a request to voluntarily enact changes, with legislation due to be introduced mandating those requirements early next year. The wards review was budgeted at $15,000.